Sunday, June 10, 2012

From Triffids to Zombies

I blame my love of zombies on triffids.

Until I was twelve years old, my reading list was pretty tame.  It consisted of classics like the Prisoner of Zenda, horse stories such as My Friend Flicka and cute mysteries like Trixie Belden.  My deepest desires were to uncover a jewellery heist in the neighborhood and to own a horse that ran like the wind (courtesy of Black Stallion).

And then I read The Day of the Triffids.  A meteor that renders the world blind.  Flesh-hungry walking plants that roam the streets.  What a dream combination! 

I was captivated by the book’s many haunting scenes, some of which have been copied in movies like 28 Days Later.  The scene when the man wanders down London’s deserted main street?  Straight out of the pages of Day of the Triffids.  

There is another scene which haunts me every time I read the book.  The hero hears a young girl, somewhere in the city, singing a melancholic song.  Her sweet voice travels clearly through the deathly still streets.  It is a haunting image because the hero, and the reader, knows she is doomed.  I could go on, but suffice it to say, the book changed my reading list overnight.

Out went the Gnid Blytons and in came John Wyndham’s and Andre Norton’s post-nuclear apocalyptic landscapes.  I was entranced by the idea of living in a world transformed by disaster and having to rely on my own skills to survive.  For that is the appeal of the apocalyptic and disaster genre, isn’t it?  When we read these books, we imagine ourselves in the same situation but, of course, our character, steely determination or unusual skill set gives us an advantage over our unfortunate fellow man.

Zombies are just another subset of this genre.  Instead of nuclear bombs, viruses or earthquakes, there are mindless, hungry automatons.  It helps that they spread faster than juicy gossip.  I adore this form of the apocalypse because it requires the hero or heroine to be intelligent to stay alive, not just be in the right place at the right time.  One of the reasons my book is placed in the midst of a zombie apocalypse is because it provides the perfect scenario to test my heroine, a mother desperate to protect her young family, and discover what qualities she possesses which set her apart from others. 

It would be nice to be armed to the teeth in a zombie apocalypse but , in the meantime, a kickass attitude helps a lot!

My passion for science fiction and disaster stories, in particular, has remained steadfast for over thirty years.  So, when you come down to it, I have to thank the triffids for leading me to write my first novel.  The mindless feeding machines of The Day of the Triffids have morphed into the mindless feeding machines of Dead Tropics.   Zombies may roam the streets instead of triffids but the spirit of the Wyndham's book is still present in the zombie books of today. It is in the modern hero's struggle to retain their humanity in the face of terrible choices; it is present when they discover inner strength they did not know they had, and, most especially, it is in their determination to fight to the death for the people they love 

Every decade or so, I feel the urge to dust off my copy of The Day of the Triffids and lose myself in it again.  I have a feeling it is that time of the decade again...

Sue Edge


  1. You inspired me to dig out my old copy of Day of the Triffids and read it again.

  2. You and me both! Let's compare notes afterwards.

  3. DotT was the first book on my recommended Apocolyptic Reading list a couple of weeks ago. :)

    Wyndham's THE KRAKEN WAKES and THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS (alternately CHILDREN or VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED in US editions) also make fine reading.

  4. I agree. Love The Midwich Cuckoos and The Chrysalids! Now why don't they make books like that recommended books at school instead of Tess of the D'Urbavilles, lol.

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